Preventing Sudden Infant
Death Syndrome (SIDS)
It’s a startling and tragic statistic: Every year in the United States, more than 3,500 babies die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related deaths. SIDS is the unexplained death of an infant in the first year of life. It is the leading cause of infant death between the ages of 1 month and 1 year. Most SIDS deaths occur between the ages of 2 and 4 months.
October is SIDS Awareness Month, making it a good time to review ways that parents and caregivers can help reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths. From sleep safety recommendations—including always putting babies on their backs to sleep—to tummy time and more, here are some ways to help reduce the risk of SIDS.
Get Proper Prenatal Care
Premature birth and low birthweight increase the risk of SIDS. By getting proper prenatal care during pregnancy, mothers can begin protecting their babies before they are born.
Maintain a Smoke-Free Environment
Mothers who smoke during or after pregnancy increase their babies’ risk of SIDS. Infants should never be exposed to anyone’s secondhand smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby.
Avoid Alcohol and Illicit Drugs
Prenatal as well as postnatal alcohol use and the use of illegal drugs or substances not authorized by a healthcare professional increase the risk of SIDS.
Always Practice Sleep Safety
- Always place babies on their backs to sleep, even for naps.
- Do not bed share with your baby. The best place for a baby to sleep is in a crib or bassinet near the parents’ bed, not in their bed. Ideally, an infant should sleep in the parents’ bedroom, close to (but not in) the parents’ bed, for the first year of life. The first 6 months are particularly important.
- Provide your baby with a firm sleep surface. Choose a safety-approved crib mattress, and cover it with a fitted sheet. Never place a baby on a soft surface, such as a couch, pillow, or waterbed.
to put infants on their backs to sleep.
- Only use cribs that meet all current safety standards, including: Slats should be no more than 2⅜" (6 cm) apart, mattresses should tightly fit the crib, headboards and footboards should not have cutout designs, and corner posts capable of causing injury or snagging clothes should be removed. Cribs also should not have drop rails. Check for product recalls before using any crib.
- Ensure that your baby’s sleep area is free from hazards, such as strings from blinds or curtains and electric wires and cords, which pose a strangulation risk.
is a great educational handout for new parents.
- Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of your baby’s crib. Ensure that your baby’s sleep area is free from pillows, stuffed toys, quilts, blankets, and more. Keep the crib bare.
- Do not allow your baby to become overheated. The room’s temperature should be set at a comfortable level for an adult. Instead of covering a baby with a blanket, dress the baby in a sleeper or warm pajamas.
- Consider offering your baby a pacifier at naptimes and bedtimes. Pacifiers may help reduce the risk of SIDS. Pacifiers should not have a strap or string. If the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth while sleeping, don’t try to reinsert it. Pacifiers should not be introduced to a breastfed newborn until breastfeeding is well-established.
- Avoid using monitors and commercial products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you have any questions, consult your baby’s healthcare professional.
Breastfeed Your Baby
In addition to all of the other wonderful benefits of breastfeeding, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Breastmilk is a baby’s optimal first food.
Follow Your Baby’s Immunization Schedule
Evidence suggests that vaccination may help protect against SIDS.
Provide Tummy Time
Some parents worry that back sleeping could cause their babies to develop flat spots on their heads. Flat spots can be prevented by putting babies on their tummies when they are awake and someone can supervise them. Tummy time also helps babies develop their muscles and enhances motor development.
provides clear steps to create a safe sleep environment.
Talk to Your Baby’s Healthcare Professional
Talk with your baby’s healthcare professional about sleep safety and other ways to keep your baby safe. Always follow the recommendations of your baby’s healthcare professional.
Remember: Tell family members, babysitters, and other caregivers about the steps to take to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. Insist that they follow all sleep-safe practices.
For more information about our sleep safety and SIDS prevention education products, visit our Safety Section.
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